anyone who knows me knows that i am a huge, huge fan of the mitfords (see previous entry), particularly nancy’s and jessica’s writing. this book is out of print, and apparently $20+ on amazon, so start scouring your used bookstores because this is a must-have!
the mitford girls wrote extensively to each other throughout their lives, and this book is a mere 5% of the letters they wrote to each other- apparently there are about 12,000 letters between the six sisters. all the girls had a million different nicknames, for each other, as well as other family members and friends, so it may get a bit confusing when you read the quotes.
“You know what I say to people whe I hear they’re writing anti-war books?”
“No. What do you say, Harrison Starr?”
“I say, ‘Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?'”
What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that, too. (3)
“When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'” (27)
Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. (39)
“There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.” (88)
She upset Billy simply by being his mother. She made him feel embarrassed and ungrateful and weak because he had gone to so much trouble to give him life, and to keep that life going, and Billy didn’t really like life at all. (102)
It was about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfamadorian, by the way. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
But the Gospels actually taught this:
Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. (108-109)
such an amazing book- i don’t even know how to begin describing it. it details the story of a family from the Dominican Republic, their struggles and their belief in a curse which they suffer from (fuku).
“And no woman, white or black, is worth one hundred twenty pounds of gold, unless she shits diamonds.” (9)
Dominga de Adviento became a Catholic without renouncing her Yoruban beliefs, and she practiced both religions at the same time, and at random. Her soul was healthy and at peace, she said, because what she did not find in one faith was there in the other. (11)
It was during this time that Dominga de Adviento walked into Bernarda’s bedroom at siesta, thinking she was at the sugar plantation, and found the two of them naked, making love on the floor. The slave woman stood with her hand on the latch, more confused than surprised.
“Don’t just stand their like a corpse,” Bernarda shouted. “Either get out or get down here with us.” (23)
He took his leave with a wave of his hat and the obligatory sentence in Latin. But this time he translated it in honor of the Marquis: “No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” (33)
Disbelief is more resistant than faith because it is sustained by the sense. (58)
“Take care,” said Delaura. “Sometimes we attribute certain things we do not understand to the Demon, not thinking they may be things of God that we do not understand.” (80)
He said that love was an emotion contra natura that condemned two strangers to a base and unhealthy dependence, and the more intense it was, the more ephemeral. (144-145)
To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom. (7)
What is important is that Death had touched me, as people say, with its wing. What is important is that I came to think it a very astonishing thing to be alive, that every day shone for me, an unhoped-for light. Before, thought I, I did not understand I was alive. The thrilling discovery of life was to be mine. (19)
There is nothing more tragic for a man who has been expecting to die than a long convalescence. After that touch from the wing of Death, what seemed important is so no longer; other things become so which had at first seemed unimportant, or which one did not even know existed. The miscellaneous mass of acquired knowledge of every kind that has overlain the mind gets peeled of in places like a mask of paint, exposing the bare skin- the very flesh of the authentic creature that had lain hidden beneath it. (43)
I believe that happiness wears out in the effort made to recapture it; that nothing is more fatal to happiness than the remembrance of happiness. (53)
“One must allow other people to be right,” he used to say when he was insulted; “it consoles them for not being anything else.” (80)
“You are burning what you used to adore,” said he. “Very good. It is a little late in the day, but never mind, the fire is all the fiercer.”(81)
“I will not say I like danger, but I like life to be hazardous, and I want to demand at every moment the whole of my courage, my happiness, my health…” (85)
“But most of them believe that it is only by constraint they can get any good out of themselves, and so they live in a state of psychological distortion. It is his own self that each of them is most afraid of resembling. Each of them sets up a pattern and imitates it; he doesn’t even choose the pattern he imitates; he accepts a pattern that has been chosen for him. And yet I verily believe there are other things to be read in man. But people don’t dare to- they don’t dare to turn the page. Laws of imitation! Laws of fear, I call them. The fear of finding oneself alone- that is what they suffer from- and so they don’t find themselves at all. I detest such moral agoraphobia- the most odious of cowardice, I call it. Why, one always has to be alone to invent anything- but they don’t want to invent anything. The part in each of us that we feel is different from other people is just the part that is rare, the part that makes our special value- and that is the very thing people try to suppress. They go on imitating. And yet they think they love life.” (89-90)
“Of the thousand forms of life, each of us can know but one. It is madness to envy other people’s happiness; one would not know what to do with it. Happiness won’t come to one ready-made; it has to be made to measure. (94)
“Do you know the reason why poetry and philosophy are nothing but dead-letter nowadays? It is because they have severed themselves from life. In Greece, ideas went hand in hand with life; so that the artist’s life itself was already a poetic realization, the philosopher’s life a putting into action of his philosophy; in this way, as both philosophy and poetry took part in life, instead of remaining unacquainted with each other, philosophy provided food for poetry, and poetry gave expression to philosophy- and the result was admirably persuasive. Nowadays beauty no longer acts; action no longer desires to be beautiful; and wisdom works in a sphere apart.” (95)
I have always thought that great artists were those who dared to confer the right of beauty on things so natural that people say on seeing them: “Why did I never realize before that that was beautiful too?” (135)
She begged us to be gentle with her and to be mindful of her background. She said Fiamma had what she called a breathing disorder. Miss Lacey knew so much about Yeats, but little about young girls. (23)
She said we could and should break all the absurd rules that governed our young lives; we were to flout convention. “You can do anything you want. The world is yours for the taking. Nothing is impossible for you, my girls. Live your lives to the full. Do you want to be absolutely free? Do you want to escape your suffering bodies? All you need is to desire it.” (33)
“If you can’t bedazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit,” she said. (34)
She spoke of truth and freedom from repression. She said the essential was to look into your heart honestly and to know the truth about yourself and, thus, about life. “If you find the truth within you, it will save you. If you ignore it, it will destroy you,” she said. No one else would tell us the truth; we were brainwashed by a bunch of bland spinsters who knew nothing – or would tell us nothing – about life, who gave us a sugarcoated version of the truth. (35)